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The Great Causes Discourse

Posted on October 31, 2011 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (0)
មហានិទានសូត្រនេះ មានសំដែងក្នុងសុត្តន្តបិដក ភាគទី១៦ ទីឃនិកាយ តតិយភាគ មហាវគ្គ ត្រង់មហានិទានសូត្រទី២ ពីទំព័រទី១១៧ ដល់១៥៣ សូមចុចទីនេះដើម្បីទាញយក


Maha-nidana Sutta: The Great Causes Discourse
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Translator's IntroductionThis is one of the most profound discourses in the Pali canon. It gives an extended treatment of the teachings of dependent co-arising (paticca samuppada) and not-self (anatta) in an outlined context of how these teachings function in practice.

The first part of the discourse takes the factors of dependent co-arising in sequence from effect to cause, tracing them down to the mutual dependency of name-and-form (mental and physical activity) on the one hand, and consciousness on the other. In connection with this point, it is worth noting that the word "great" in the title of the discourse may have a double meaning: modifying the word "discourse" — it's a long discourse — and modifying "causes," referring to the fact that name-and-form and consciousness as causal factors can account for everything describable in the cosmos.

After tracing the basic sequence of factors in the causal pattern, the discourse then reviews their inter-relationships, showing how they can explain stress and suffering both on the individual and on the social level.

The second part of the discourse, taking up the teaching of not-self, shows how dependent co-arising gives focus to this teaching in practice. It begins with a section on Delineations of a Self, classifying the various ways in which a sense of "self" might be defined in terms of form. The scheme of analysis introduced in this section — classifying views of the self according to the variables of form and formless; finite and infinite; already existing, naturally developing in the future, and alterable through human effort — covers all the theories of the self proposed in the classical Upanisads, as well as all theories of self or soul proposed in more recent times. The inclusion of an infinite self in this list gives the lie to the belief that the Buddha's teachings on not-self were denying nothing more than a sense of "separate" or "limited" self. The discourse points out that even a limitless, infinite, all-embracing sense of self is based on an obsession in the mind that has to be abandoned.

The following section, on Non-delineations of a Self, shows that it is possible for the mind to function without reading a "self" into experience. The remaining sections focus on ways in which this can be done by treating the sense of self as it relates to different aspects of name-and-form. The first of these sections — Assumptions of a Self — focuses on the sense of self as it relates to feeling, one of the "name" factors in name-and-form. The next section — Seven Stations of Consciousness — focuses on form, formlessness, and perception, which is another one of the "name" factors that allows a place for consciousness to land and grow on the "macro" level in the cycle of death and rebirth. The last section — Eight Emancipations — focuses on form, formlessness, and perception on the "micro" level in the practice of meditative absorption (jhana).

In each of these cases, once the sense of attachment and identification with name-and-form can be broken, the mutual dependency between consciousness and name-and-form is broken as well. This brings about total freedom from the limits of "the extent to which there are means of designation, expression, and delineation... the extent to which the sphere of discernment extends, the extent to which the cycle revolves for the manifesting (discernibility) of this world — i.e., name-and-form together with consciousness." This is the release at which the Buddha's teachings are aimed.


Dependent Co-arising
I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was living among the Kurus. Now, the Kurus have a town named Kammasadhamma. There Ven. Ananda approached the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "It's amazing, lord, it's astounding, how deep this dependent co-arising is, and how deep its appearance, and yet to me it seems as clear as clear can be."


[The Buddha:] "Don't say that, Ananda. Don't say that. Deep is this dependent co-arising, and deep its appearance. It's because of not understanding and not penetrating this Dhamma that this generation is like a tangled skein, a knotted ball of string, like matted rushes and reeds, and does not go beyond transmigration, beyond the planes of deprivation, woe, and bad destinations.


"If one is asked, 'Is there a demonstrable requisite condition for aging and death?' one should answer, 'There is.'


"If one is asked, 'From what requisite condition do aging and death come?' one should say, 'Aging and death come from birth as their requisite condition.'

"If one is asked, 'Is there a demonstrable requisite condition for birth?' one should answer, 'There is.'


"If one is asked, 'From what requisite condition does birth come?' one should say, 'Birth comes from becoming as its requisite condition.'


"If one is asked, 'Is there a demonstrable requisite condition for becoming?' one should answer, 'There is.'


"If one is asked, 'From what requisite condition does becoming come?' one should say, 'Becoming comes from clinging as its requisite condition.'


"If one is asked, 'Is there a demonstrable requisite condition for clinging?' one should answer, 'There is.'


"If one is asked, 'From what requisite condition does clinging come?' one should say, 'Clinging comes from craving as its requisite condition.'


"If one is asked, 'Is there a demonstrable requisite condition for craving?' one should answer, 'There is.'

"If one is asked, 'From what requisite condition does craving come?' one should say, 'Craving comes from feeling as its requisite condition.'


"If one is asked, 'Is there a demonstrable requisite condition for feeling?' one should answer, 'There is.'


"If one is asked, 'From what requisite condition does feeling come?' one should say, 'Feeling comes from contact as its requisite condition.'


"If one is asked, 'Is there a demonstrable requisite condition for contact?' one should answer, 'There is.'


"If one is asked, 'From what requisite condition does contact come?' one should say, 'Contact comes from name-and-form as its requisite condition.'

"If one is asked, 'Is there a demonstrable requisite condition for name-and-form?' one should answer, 'There is.'


"If one is asked, 'From what requisite condition does name-and-form come?' one should say, 'Name-and-form comes from consciousness as its requisite condition.'


"If one is asked, 'Is there a demonstrable requisite condition for consciousness?' one should answer, 'There is.'


"If one is asked, 'From what requisite condition does consciousness come?' one should say, 'Consciousness comes from name-and-form as its requisite condition.'


"Thus, Ananda, from name-and-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form. From name-and-form as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging. From clinging as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, aging, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress.


Aging and Death
"'From birth as a requisite condition come aging and death.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from birth as a requisite condition come aging and death. If there were no birth at all, in any way, of anything anywhere — i.e., of devas in the state of devas, of celestials in the state of celestials, of spirits in the state of spirits, of demons in the state of demons, of human beings in the human state, of quadrupeds in the state of quadrupeds, of birds in the state of birds, of snakes in the state of snakes, or of any being in its own state — in the utter absence of birth, from the cessation of birth, would aging and death be discerned?"


"No, lord."

"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for aging and death, i.e., birth.


Birth
"'From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. If there were no becoming at all, in any way, of anything anywhere — i.e., sensual becoming, form becoming, or formless becoming — in the utter absence of becoming, from the cessation of becoming, would birth be discerned?"


"No, lord."


"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for birth, i.e., becoming.


Becoming
"'From clinging as a requisite condition comes becoming.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from clinging as a requisite condition comes becoming. If there were no clinging at all, in any way, of anything anywhere — i.e., clinging to sensuality, clinging to precepts and practices, clinging to views, or clinging to doctrines of the self — in the utter absence of clinging, from the cessation of clinging, would becoming be discerned?"


"No, lord."


"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for becoming, i.e., clinging.


Clinging
"'From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from craving as a requisite condition comes clinging. If there were no craving at all, in any way, of anything anywhere — i.e., craving for sensuality, craving for becoming, craving for no becoming — in the utter absence of craving, from the cessation of craving, would clinging be discerned?"


"No, lord."


"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for clinging, i.e., craving.


Craving
"'From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. If there were no feeling at all, in any way, of anything anywhere — i.e., feeling born of contact at the eye, feeling born of contact at the ear, feeling born of contact at the nose, feeling born of contact at the tongue, feeling born of contact at the body, or feeling born of contact at the intellect — in the utter absence of feeling, from the cessation of feeling, would craving be discerned?"


"No, lord."


"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for craving, i.e., feeling.


Dependent on Craving"Now, craving is dependent on feeling, seeking is dependent on craving, acquisition is dependent on seeking, ascertainment is dependent on acquisition, desire and passion is dependent on ascertainment, attachment is dependent on desire and passion, possessiveness is dependent on attachment, stinginess is dependent on possessiveness, defensiveness is dependent on stinginess, and because of defensiveness, dependent on defensiveness, various evil, unskillful phenomena come into play: the taking up of sticks and knives; conflicts, quarrels, and disputes; accusations, divisive speech, and lies.


"And this is the way to understand how it is that because of defensiveness various evil, unskillful phenomena come into play: the taking up of sticks and knives; conflicts, quarrels, and disputes; accusations, divisive speech, and lies. If there were no defensiveness at all, in any way, of anything anywhere, in the utter absence of defensiveness, from the cessation of defensiveness, would various evil, unskillful phenomena — the taking up of sticks and knives; conflicts, quarrels, and disputes; accusations, divisive speech, and lies — come into play?"


"No, lord."


"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for the coming-into-play of various evil, unskillful phenomena — the taking up of sticks and knives; conflicts, quarrels, and disputes; accusations, divisive speech, and lies — i.e., defensiveness.


"'Defensiveness is dependent on stinginess.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how defensiveness is dependent on stinginess. If there were no stinginess at all, in any way, of anything anywhere, in the utter absence of stinginess, from the cessation of stinginess, would defensiveness be discerned?"


"No, lord."


"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for defensiveness, i.e., stinginess.


(Similarly back through the chain of conditions: stinginess, attachment, possessiveness, desire and passion, ascertainment, acquisition, and seeking.)


"'Seeking is dependent on craving.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how seeking is dependent on craving. If there were no craving at all, in any way, of anything anywhere — i.e., craving for sensuality, craving for becoming, craving for no becoming — in the utter absence of craving, from the cessation of craving, would seeking be discerned?"


"No, lord."


"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for seeking, i.e., craving. Thus, Ananda, these two phenomena [the chain of conditions leading from craving to birth, aging, and death, and the chain of conditions leading from craving to quarrels, etc.], as a duality, flow back into one place at feeling.


Feeling
"'From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. If there were no contact at all, in any way, of anything anywhere — i.e., contact at the eye, contact at the ear, contact at the nose, contact at the tongue, contact at the body, or contact at the intellect — in the utter absence of contact, from the cessation of contact, would feeling be discerned?"


"No, lord."

"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for feeling, i.e., contact.


Contact
"'From name-&-form as a requisite condition comes contact. Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how, from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes contact. If the qualities, traits, themes, & indicators by which there is a description of name-group (mental activity) were all absent, would designation-contact with regard to the form-group (the physical properties) be discerned?"


"No, lord."


"If the permutations, signs, themes, and indicators by which there is a description of form-group were all absent, would resistance-contact with regard to the name-group be discerned?"


"No, lord."


"If the permutations, signs, themes, and indicators by which there is a description of name-group and form-group were all absent, would designation-contact or resistance-contact be discerned?"


"No, lord."


"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for contact, i.e., name-and-form.


Name-and-form
"'From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form. If consciousness were not to descend into the mother's womb, would name-and-form take shape in the womb?"


"No, lord."


"If, after descending into the womb, consciousness were to depart, would name-and-form be produced for this world?"


"No, lord."


"If the consciousness of the young boy or girl were to be cut off, would name-and-form ripen, grow, and reach maturity?"


"No, lord."


"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for name-and-form, i.e., consciousness."


Consciousness
"'From name-and-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from name-and-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness. If consciousness were not to gain a foothold in name-and-form, would a coming-into-play of the origination of birth, aging, death, and stress in the future be discerned?


"No, lord."


"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for consciousness, i.e., name-and-form.


"This is the extent to which there is birth, aging, death, passing away, and re-arising. This is the extent to which there are means of designation, expression, and delineation. This is the extent to which the sphere of discernment extends, the extent to which the cycle revolves for the manifesting (discernibility) of this world — i.e., name-and-form together with consciousness.


Delineations of a Self
"To what extent, Ananda, does one delineate when delineating a self? Either delineating a self possessed of form and finite, one delineates that 'My self is possessed of form and finite.' Or, delineating a self possessed of form and infinite, one delineates that 'My self is possessed of form and infinite.' Or, delineating a self formless and finite, one delineates that 'My self is formless and finite.' Or, delineating a self formless and infinite, one delineates that 'My self is formless and infinite.'


"Now, the one who, when delineating a self, delineates it as possessed of form and finite, either delineates it as possessed of form and finite in the present, or of such a nature that it will [naturally] become possessed of form and finite [in the future/after death], or he believes that 'Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.' This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self possessed of form and finite obsesses him.


"The one who, when delineating a self, delineates it as possessed of form and infinite, either delineates it as possessed of form and infinite in the present, or of such a nature that it will [naturally] become possessed of form and infinite [in the future/after death], or he believes that 'Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.' This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self possessed of form and infinite obsesses him.


"The one who, when delineating a self, delineates it as formless and finite, either delineates it as formless and finite in the present, or of such a nature that it will [naturally] become formless and finite [in the future/after death], or he believes that 'Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.' This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self formless and finite obsesses him.


"The one who, when delineating a self, delineates it as formless and infinite, either delineates it as formless and infinite in the present, or of such a nature that it will [naturally] become formless and infinite [in the future/after death], or he believes that 'Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.' This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self formless and infinite obsesses him.


Non-Delineations of a Self
"To what extent, Ananda, does one not delineate when not delineating a self? Either not delineating a self possessed of form and finite, one does not delineate that 'My self is possessed of form and finite.' Or, not delineating a self possessed of form and infinite, one does not delineate that 'My self is possessed of form and infinite.' Or, not delineating a self formless and finite, one does not delineate that 'My self is formless and finite.' Or, not delineating a self formless and infinite, one does not delineate that 'My self is formless and infinite.'


"Now, the one who, when not delineating a self, does not delineate it as possessed of form and finite, does not delineate it as possessed of form and finite in the present, nor does he delineate it as of such a nature that it will [naturally] become possessed of form and finite [in the future/after death], nor does he believe that 'Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.' This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self possessed of form and finite does not obsess him.


"The one who, when not delineating a self, does not delineate it as possessed of form and infinite, does not delineate it as possessed of form and infinite in the present, nor does he delineate it as of such a nature that it will [naturally] become possessed of form and infinite [in the future/after death], nor does he believe that 'Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.' This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self possessed of form and infinite does not obsess him.


"The one who, when not delineating a self, does not delineate it as formless and finite, does not delineate it as formless and finite in the present, nor does he delineate it as of such a nature that it will [naturally] become formless and finite [in the future/after death], nor does he believe that 'Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.' This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self formless and finite does not obsess him.


"The one who, when not delineating a self, does not delineate it as formless and infinite, does not delineate it as formless and infinite in the present, nor does he delineate it as of such a nature that it will [naturally] become formless and infinite [in the future/after death], nor does he believe that 'Although it is not yet that way, I will convert it into being that way.' This being the case, it is proper to say that a fixed view of a self formless and infinite does not obsess him.


Assumptions of a Self
"To what extent, Ananda, does one assume when assuming a self? Assuming feeling to be the self, one assumes that 'Feeling is my self' [or] 'Feeling is not my self: My self is oblivious [to feeling]' [or] 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious to feeling, but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling.'


"Now, one who says, 'Feeling is my self,' should be addressed as follows: 'There are these three feelings, my friend — feelings of pleasure, feelings of pain, and feelings of neither pleasure nor pain. Which of these three feelings do you assume to be the self?' At a moment when a feeling of pleasure is sensed, no feeling of pain or of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed. Only a feeling of pleasure is sensed at that moment. At a moment when a feeling of pain is sensed, no feeling of pleasure or of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed. Only a feeling of pain is sensed at that moment. At a moment when a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed, no feeling of pleasure or of pain is sensed. Only a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed at that moment.


"Now, a feeling of pleasure is inconstant, fabricated, dependent on conditions, subject to passing away, dissolution, fading, and cessation. A feeling of pain is inconstant, fabricated, dependent on conditions, subject to passing away, dissolution, fading, and cessation. A feeling of neither pleasure nor pain is inconstant, fabricated, dependent on conditions, subject to passing away, dissolution, fading, and cessation. Having sensed a feeling of pleasure as 'my self,' then with the cessation of one's very own feeling of pleasure, 'my self' has perished. Having sensed a feeling of pain as 'my self,' then with the cessation of one's very own feeling of pain, 'my self' has perished. Having sensed a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain as 'my self,' then with the cessation of one's very own feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, 'my self' has perished.


"Thus he assumes, assuming in the immediate present a self inconstant, entangled in pleasure and pain, subject to arising and passing away, he who says, 'Feeling is my self.' Thus in this manner, Ananda, one does not see fit to assume feeling to be the self.


"As for the person who says, 'Feeling is not the self: My self is oblivious [to feeling],' he should be addressed as follows: 'My friend, where nothing whatsoever is sensed (experienced) at all, would there be the thought, "I am"?'"


"No, lord."


"Thus in this manner, Ananda, one does not see fit to assume that 'Feeling is not my self: My self is oblivious [to feeling].'


"As for the person who says, 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious [to feeling], but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling,' he should be addressed as follows: 'My friend, should feelings altogether and every way stop without remainder, then with feeling completely not existing, owing to the cessation of feeling, would there be the thought, "I am"?'"


"No, lord."


"Thus in this manner, Ananda, one does not see fit to assume that 'Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious [to feeling], but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling.'


"Now, Ananda, in as far as a monk does not assume feeling to be the self, nor the self as oblivious, nor that 'My self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling,' then, not assuming in this way, he is not sustained by anything (does not cling to anything) in the world. Unsustained, he is not agitated. Unagitated, he is totally unbound right within. He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'


"If anyone were to say with regard to a monk whose mind is thus released that 'The Tathagata exists after death,' is his view, that would be mistaken; that 'The Tathagata does not exist after death'... that 'The Tathagata both exists and does not exist after death'... that 'The Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist after death' is his view, that would be mistaken. Why? Having directly known the extent of designation and the extent of the objects of designation, the extent of expression and the extent of the objects of expression, the extent of description and the extent of the objects of description, the extent of discernment and the extent of the objects of discernment, the extent to which the cycle revolves: Having directly known that, the monk is released. [To say that,] 'The monk released, having directly known that, does not see, does not know is his opinion,' that would be mistaken. [1]


Seven Stations of Consciousness"Ananda, there are these seven stations of consciousness and two spheres. Which seven?


"There are beings with diversity of body and diversity of perception, such as human beings, some devas, and some beings in the lower realms. This is the first station of consciousness.


"There are beings with diversity of body and singularity of perception, such as the devas of the Brahma hosts generated by the first [jhana] and some beings in the four realms of deprivation. This is the second station of consciousness. [2]


"There are beings with singularity of body and diversity of perception, such as the Radiant Devas. This is the third station of consciousness.


"There are beings with singularity of body and singularity of perception, such as the Beautifully Lustrous Devas. This is the fourth station of consciousness.


"There are beings who,with the complete transcending of perceptions of [physical] form, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not heeding perceptions of diversity, [perceiving,] 'Infinite space,' arrive at the dimension of the infinitude of space. This is the fifth station of consciousness.


"There are beings who, with the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of space, [perceiving,] 'Infinite consciousness,' arrive at the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. This is the sixth station of consciousness.


"There are beings who, with the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, [perceiving,] 'There is nothing,' arrive at the dimension of nothingness. This is the seventh station of consciousness.


"The dimension of non-percipient beings and, second, the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. [These are the two spheres.]


"Now, as for the first station of consciousness — beings with diversity of body and diversity of perception, such as human beings, some devas, and some beings in the lower realms: If one discerns that [station of consciousness], discerns its origination, discerns its passing away, discerns its allure, discerns its drawbacks, discerns the escape from it, would it be proper, by means of that [discernment] to take delight there?"


"No, lord."


(Similarly with each of the remaining stations of consciousness and two spheres.)

"Ananda, when knowing — as they actually are — the origination, passing away, allure, drawbacks of — and escape from — these seven stations of consciousness and two spheres, a monk is released through lack of clinging, he is said to be a monk released through discernment.


Eight Emancipations"Ananda, there are these eight emancipations. Which eight?


"Possessed of form, one sees forms. This is the first emancipation.


"Not percipient of form internally, one sees forms externally. This is the second emancipation.


"One is intent only on the beautiful. This is the third emancipation.


"With the complete transcending of perceptions of [physical] form, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not heeding perceptions of diversity, [perceiving,] 'Infinite space,' one enters and remains in the dimension of the infinitude of space. This is the fourth emancipation.


"With the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of space, [perceiving,] 'Infinite consciousness,' one enters and remains in the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. This is the fifth emancipation.


"With the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, [perceiving,] 'There is nothing,' one enters and remains in the dimension of nothingness. This is the sixth emancipation.


"With the complete transcending of the dimension of nothingness, one enters and remains in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. This is the seventh emancipation.


"With the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, one enters and remains in the cessation of perception and feeling. This is the eighth emancipation.


"Now, when a monk attains these eight emancipations in forward order, in reverse order, in forward and reverse order, when he attains them and emerges from them wherever he wants, however he wants, and for as long as he wants, when through the ending of the mental fermentations he enters and remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release and discernment-release, having directly known it and realized it in the here and now, he is said to be a monk released in both ways. And as for another release in both ways, higher or more sublime than this, there is none."


That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, Ven. Ananda delighted in the Blessed One's words.


Notes1.The various readings for this sentence all seem to be corrupt. The sense of the paragraph, read in light of AN 10.96, demands that the view expressed in the last sentence be about the monk released, unlike the four earlier views, which are wrongly attributed to the monk released. In other words, the monk released has no opinion on the question of whether the Tathagata does, doesn't, etc., exist after death. This might lead to the supposition that his lack of opinion comes from a lack of knowledge or vision. The description of what he comes to know in the course of gaining release shows that this supposition is inappropriate. He does know, he does see, and what he knows and sees about the limitations of language and concepts shows him that the question of the existence of the Tathagata after death should be set aside. Thus I would reconstruct the Pali of the final sentence in this paragraph as: Tadabhiññaa vimutto bhikkhu na jaanaati na passati iti saa ditthi tadakallam.

2.This reading follows the Thai edition of the Pali canon. Other editions omit the statement, "and some beings in the four realms of deprivation." However, something like the Thai reading seems called for, inasmuch as the first station of consciousness covers only some of the beings in the lower realms.  Source

The purpose of life

Posted on October 17, 2011 at 11:55 PM Comments comments (1)


Compassion and the Individual by His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama


One great question underlies our experience, whether we think about it consciously or not: What is the purpose of life?

I have considered this question and would like to share my thoughts in the hope that they may be of direct, practical benefit to those who read them.

I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy.

From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering. Neither social conditioning nor education nor 

ideology affect this. From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment. I don't know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves.

Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness.

How to achieve happiness

For a start, it is possible to divide every kind of happiness and suffering into two main categories: mental and physical. Of the two, it is the mind that exerts the greatest influence on most of us. Unless we are either gravely ill or deprived of basic necessities, our physical condition plays a secondary role in life. If the body is content, we virtually ignore it. The mind, however, registers every event, no matter how small. Hence we should devote our most serious efforts to bringing about mental peace. 

From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquillity comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. This helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the ultimate source of success in life.

As long as we live in this world we are bound to encounter problems. If, at such times, we lose hope and become discouraged, we diminish our ability to face difficulties. If, on the other hand, we remember that it is not just ourselves but everyone who has to undergo suffering, this more realistic perspective will increase our determination and capacity to overcome troubles. Indeed, with this attitude, each new obstacle can be seen as yet another valuable opportunity to improve our mind! Thus we can strive gradually to become more compassionate, that is we can develop both genuine sympathy for others' suffering and the will to help remove their pain. As a result, our own serenity and inner strength will increase.

Our need for love

Ultimately, the reason why love and compassion bring the greatest happiness is simply that our nature cherishes them above all else. The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another. However capable and skillful an individual may be, left alone, he or she will not survive. However vigorous and independent one may feel during the most prosperous periods of life, when one is sick or very young or very old, one must depend on the support of others. Interdependence, of course, is a fundamental law of nature. Not only higher forms of life but also many of the smallest insects are social beings who, without any religion, law or education, survive by mutual cooperation based on an innate recognition of their interconnectedness.

The most subtle level of material phenomena is also governed by interdependence. All phenomena, from the planet we inhabit to the oceans, clouds, forests and flowers that surround us, arise in dependence upon subtle patterns of energy. Without their proper interaction, they dissolve and decay. It is because our own human existence is so dependent on the help of others that our need for love lies at the very foundation of our existence. 

Therefore we need a genuine sense of responsibility and a sincere concern for the welfare of others. We have to consider what we human beings really are. We are not like machine-made objects. If we were merely mechanical entities, then machines themselves could alleviate all of our sufferings and fulfil our needs. However, since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. Instead, we should consider our origins and nature to discover what we require. Leaving aside the complex question of the creation and evolution of our universe, we can at least agree that each of us is the product of our own parents.

In general, our conception took place not just in the context of sexual desire but from our parents' decision to have a child. Such decisions are founded on responsibility and altruism -- the parents' compassionate commitment to care for their child until it is able to take care of itself. Thus, from the very moment of our conception, our parents' love is directly involved in our creation. Moreover, we are completely dependent upon our mother's care from the earliest stages of our growth.

According to some scientists, a pregnant woman's mental state, be it calm or agitated, has a direct physical effect on her unborn child. The expression of love is also very important at the time of birth. Since the very first thing we do is suck milk from our mother's breast, we naturally feel close to her, and she must feel love for us in order to feed us properly; if she feels anger or resentment her milk may not flow freely.

Then there is the critical period of brain development from the time of birth up to at least the age of three or four, during which time loving physical contact is the single most important factor for the normal growth of the child.If the child is not held, hugged, cuddled or loved, its development will be impaired and its brain will not mature properly. Since a child cannot survive without the care of others, love is its most important nourishment. The happiness of childhood, the allaying of the child's many fears and the healthy development of its self-confidence all depend directly upon love. 

Nowadays, many children grow up in unhappy homes. If they do not receive proper affection, in later life they will rarely love their parents and, not infrequently, will find it hard to love others. This is very sad. As children grow older and enter school, their need for support must be met by their teachers. If a teacher not only imparts academic education but also assumes responsibility for preparing students for life, his or her pupils will feel trust and respect and what has been taught will leave an indelible impression on their minds. On the other hand, subjects taught by a teacher who does not show true concern for his or her students' overall well-being will be regarded as temporary and not retained for long.

Similarly, if one is sick and being treated in hospital by a doctor who evinces a warm human feeling, one feels at ease and the doctor's desire to give the best possible care is itself curative, irrespective of the degree of his or her technical skill. On the other hand, if one's doctor lacks human feeling and displays an unfriendly expression, impatience or casual disregard, one will feel anxious, even if he or she is the most highly qualified doctor and the disease has been correctly diagnosed and the right medication prescribed. Inevitably, patients' feelings make a difference to the quality and completeness of their recovery.

Even when we engage in ordinary conversation in everyday life, if someone speaks with human feeling we enjoy listening, and respond accordingly; the whole conversation becomes interesting, however unimportant the topic may be. On the other hand, if a person speaks coldly or harshly, we feel uneasy and wish for a quick end to the interaction. From the least to the most important event, the affection and respect of others are vital for our happiness. 

Recently I met a group of scientists in America who said that the rate of mental illness in their country was quite high around twelve percent of the population. it became clear during our discussion that the main cause of depression was not a lack of material necessities but a deprivation of the affection of others.

So, as you can see from everything I have written so far, one thing seems clear to me: whether or not we are consciously aware of it, from the day we are born, the need for human affection is in our very blood. Even if the affection comes from an animal or someone we would normally consider an enemy, both children and adults will naturally gravitate towards it. I believe that no one is born free from the need for love. And this demonstrates that, although some modern schools of thought seek to do so, human beings cannot be defined as solely physical. No material object, however beautiful or valuable, can make us feel loved, because our deeper identity and true character lie in the subjective nature of the mind. Developing compassionSome of my friends have told me that, while love and compassion are marvelous and good, they are not really very relevant. Our world, they say, is not a place where such beliefs have much influence or power. They claim that anger and hatred are so much a part of human nature that humanity will always be dominated by them. I do not agree.

We humans have existed in our present form for about a hundred thousand years. I believe that if during this time the human mind had been primarily controlled by anger and hatred, our overall population would have decreased. But today, despite all our wars, we find that the human population is greater than ever. This clearly indicates to me that love and compassion predominate in the world. And this is why unpleasant events are "news"; compassionate activities are so much a part of daily life that they are taken for granted and, therefore, largely ignored. So far I have been discussing mainly the mental benefits of compassion, but it contributes to good physical health as well. According to my personal experience, mental stability and physical well-being are directly related.

Without question, anger and agitation make us more susceptible to illness. On the other hand, if the mind is tranquil and occupied with positive thoughts, the body will not easily fall prey to disease. But of course it is also true that we all have an innate self-centeredness that inhibits our love for others.

So, since we desire the true happiness that is brought about by only a calm mind, and since such peace of mind is brought about by only a compassionate attitude, how can we develop this? Obviously, it is not enough for us simply to think about how nice compassion is! We need to make a concerted effort to develop it; we must use all the events of our daily life to transform our thoughts and behavior.

First of all, we must be clear about what we mean by compassion. Many forms of compassionate feeling are mixed with desire and attachment. For instance, the love parents feel for their child is often strongly associated with their own emotional needs, so it is not fully compassionate. Again, in marriage, the love between husband and wife -- particularly at the beginning, when each partner still may not know the other's deeper character very well -- depends more on attachment than genuine love. Our desire can be so strong that the person to whom we are attached appears to be good, when in fact he or she is very negative. In addition, we have a tendency to exaggerate small positive qualities. Thus when one partner's attitude changes, the other partner is often disappointed and his or her attitude changes too. This is an indication that love has been motivated more by personal need than by genuine care for the other individual. True compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason. Therefore, a truly compassionate attitude towards others does not change even if they behave negatively. Of course, developing this kind of compassion is not at all easy! As a start, let us consider the following facts: Whether people are beautiful and friendly or unattractive and disruptive, ultimately they are human beings, just like oneself. Like oneself, they want happiness and do not want suffering. Furthermore, their right to overcome suffering and be happy is equal to one's own. Now, when you recognize that all beings are equal in both their desire for happiness and their right to obtain it, you automatically feel empathy and closeness for them. Through accustoming your mind to this sense of universal altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for others: the wish to help them actively overcome their problems. Nor is this wish selective; it applies equally to all. As long as they are human beings experiencing pleasure and pain just as you do, there is no logical basis to discriminate between them or to alter your concern for them if they behave negatively. Let me emphasize that it is within our power, given patience and time, to develop this kind of compassion. Of course, our self-centeredness, our distinctive attachment to the feeling of an independent, self-existent "I: works fundamentally to inhibit our compassion. Indeed, true compassion can be experienced only when this type of self-grasping is eliminated. But this does not mean that we cannot start and make progress now.

How we can start

We should begin by removing the greatest hindrances to compassion: anger and hatred. As we all know, these are extremely powerful emotions and they can overwhelm our entire mind. Nevertheless, they can be controlled. If, however, they are not, these negative emotions will plague us -- with no extra effort on their part! -- and impede our quest for the happiness of a loving mind. So as a start, it is useful to investigate whether or not anger is of value. Sometimes, when we are discouraged by a difficult situation, anger does seem helpful, appearing to bring with it more energy, confidence and determination. 

Here, though, we must examine our mental state carefully. While it is true that anger brings extra energy, if we explore the nature of this energy, we discover that it is blind: we cannot be sure whether its result will be positive or negative. This is because anger eclipses the best part of our brain: its rationality. So the energy of anger is almost always unreliable. It can cause an immense amount of destructive, unfortunate behavior. Moreover, if anger increases to the extreme, one becomes like a mad person, acting in ways that are as damaging to oneself as they are to others. It is possible, however, to develop an equally forceful but far more controlled energy with which to handle difficult situations. This controlled energy comes not only from a compassionate attitude, but also from reason and patience. These are the most powerful antidotes to anger. Unfortunately, many people misjudge these qualities as signs of weakness. I believe the opposite to be true: that they are the true signs of inner strength.

Compassion is by nature gentle, peaceful and soft, but it is also very powerful. It is those who easily lose their patience who are insecure and unstable. Thus, to me, the arousal of anger is a direct sign of weakness. So, when a problem first arises, try to remain humble and maintain a sincere attitude and be concerned that the outcome is fair. Of course, others may try to take advantage of you, and if your remaining detached only encourages unjust aggression, adopt a strong stand. This, however, should be done with compassion, and if it is necessary to express your views and take strong countermeasures, do so without anger or ill-intent. You should realize that even though your opponents appear to be harming you, in the end, their destructive activity will damage only themselves. In order to check your own selfish impulse to retaliate, you should recall your desire to practice compassion and assume responsibility for helping prevent the other person from suffering the consequences of his or her acts. Thus, because the measures you employ have been calmly chosen, they will be more effective, more accurate and more forceful. Retaliation based on the blind energy of anger seldom hits the target.

Friends and enemies

I must emphasize again that merely thinking that compassion and reason and patience are good will not be enough to develop them. We must wait for difficulties to arise and then attempt to practice them. And who creates such opportunities? Not our friends, of course, but our enemies. They are the ones who give us the most trouble. So if we truly wish to learn, we should consider enemies to be our best teacher! For a person who cherishes compassion and love, the practice of tolerance is essential, and for that, an enemy is indispensable. So we should feel grateful to our enemies, for it is they who can best help us develop a tranquil mind! Also, it is often the case in both personal and public life, that with a change in circumstances, enemies become friends.

So anger and hatred are always harmful, and unless we train our minds and work to reduce their negative force, they will continue to disturb us and disrupt our attempts to develop a calm mind. Anger and hatred are our real enemies. These are the forces we most need to confront and defeat, not the temporary "enemies" who appear intermittently throughout life. Of course, it is natural and right that we all want friends. I often joke that if you really want to be selfish, you should be very altruistic! You should take good care of others, be concerned for their welfare, help them, serve them, make more friends, make more smiles. The result? When you yourself need help, you find plenty of helpers! If, on the other hand, you neglect the happiness of others, in the long term you will be the loser. And is friendship produced through quarrels and anger, jealousy and intense competitiveness? I do not think so. Only affection brings us genuine close friends. In today's materialistic society, if you have money and power, you seem to have many friends. But they are not friends of yours; they are the friends of your money and power. When you lose your wealth and influence, you will find it very difficult to track these people down. The trouble is that when things in the world go well for us, we become confident that we can manage by ourselves and feel we do not need friends, but as our status and health decline, we quickly realize how wrong we were. That is the moment when we learn who is really helpful and who is completely useless. So to prepare for that moment, to make genuine friends who will help us when the need arises, we ourselves must cultivate altruism!

Though sometimes people laugh when I say it, I myself always want more friends. I love smiles. Because of this I have the problem of knowing how to make more friends and how to get more smiles, in particular, genuine smiles. For there are many kinds of smile, such as sarcastic, artificial or diplomatic smiles. Many smiles produce no feeling of satisfaction, and sometimes they can even create suspicion or fear, can't they? But a genuine smile really gives us a feeling of freshness and is, I believe, unique to human beings. If these are the smiles we want, then we ourselves must create the reasons for them to appear.

Compassion and the worldIn conclusion, I would like briefly to expand my thoughts beyond the topic of this short piece and make a wider point: individual happiness can contribute in a profound and effective way to the overall improvement of our entire human community. Because we all share an identical need for love, it is possible to feel that anybody we meet, in whatever circumstances, is a brother or sister. No matter how new the face or how different the dress and behavior, there is no significant division between us and other people. It is foolish to dwell on external differences, because our basic natures are the same. Ultimately, humanity is one and this small planet is our only home. If we are to protect this home of ours, each of us needs to experience a vivid sense of universal altruism. It is only this feeling that can remove the self-centered motives that cause people to deceive and misuse one another. If you have a sincere and open heart, you naturally feel self-worth and confidence, and there is no need to be fearful of others. I believe that at every level of society -- familial, tribal, national and international successful world is the growth of compassion. We do not need to become religious, nor do we need to believe in an ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities. I try to treat whoever I meet as an old friend. This gives me a genuine feeling of happiness. It is the time to help create a happier world.

The Wheel of Law (Life)

Posted on July 30, 2011 at 10:52 AM Comments comments (0)

Dependent Origination (paticca-samuppada) -The Wheel of Law (Life)

According to Buddhism, nothing can exist by itself except, but only in relation to other causally-related events: a particular result always has a cause. For example, cause A results in B, and B then acts as a cause for another result C. The patticca-samuppada is an important discourse on the process of birth and death of beings that operates within the above law. It deals with the cause of rebirth and suffering with the purpose of releasing beings from the cycle of life(samsara). It should be noted that it is not a theory of the evolution of the world.


This doctrine of Conditioned Genesis or Dependent Origination is unique to Buddhism.


1.Ignorance (avijja) of the truth of dukkha, its cause, its end and the way to its end is the chief cause that sets the wheel of life in motion. In other words, it is the lack of understanding of things* as they really are which makes us cling onto these very things that result in being trapped in the cycle of birth, death and re-birth (samsara). It should be noted that understanding here is not mere book knowledge, but a true intuitive realisation of the processes of life as they really are.


2.As a result of this lack of understanding, there arises samkhara. The Pali word samkhara has many meanings and does not translate directly into English. But in the context of Dependent Origination, it may be termed mental formations which generate kamma.


In general, Samkhara has a much broader and deep meaning than above. It is defined as "things that have come into existence due to causes and conditions that are subject to continuous change". It includes such factors as skillful and unskillful intentional actions, memory, habit formations set up in the past. All skillful and unskillful thoughts, words and actions are also included in this category. It could be said that samkhara is the momentum generated by the above factors that propels a being through samsara.


3.Dependent on past conditioning activities (samkhara) arises re-linking or re-birth consciousness (patisandhi-vinnana) in a subsequent birth. It is so called because it links the past life with the next one.


4.Simultaneously with the arising of the re-birth consciousness, there is the formation of mind and matter (nama-rupa). This interdependent combination is what constitutes a sentient living being. It follows that in order for a fertilized egg to develop into a living being, an essential factor is the re-birth consciousness. In this consciousness are latent all the past impressions and characteristics of that particular life-stream.


5.The mind-matter combination then goes on to develop the six senses (salayatana), comprising eye, ear, nose, tongue, touch and mind. In this context, mind is included as the sixth sense organ as it a receptor for thoughts and functions as a co-ordinater of the information received from other five senses.


6.Each of these senses gives rise to contact (phassa). Contact is the interaction of the particular sense organ with a corresponding external objects. For example, when the eye sees an object, its image falls on the retina, which produces visual stimulation. This is visual contact **. Similarly, when a sound falls on the ear, auditory contact takes place. It should be noted that no identification of the object takes place at this stage: it is simply an awareness of the presence of the object.


7.Dependent on contact, sensation or feeling (vedana) arises. The feeling can be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.


8.Dependent on feelings, craving (tanha) arises. Cravings or desires take three forms: craving for sensual pleasures (kama-tanha), craving for continuation (bhava-tanha) and craving for self-destruction (vibhava-tanha). It is this craving which is deep rooted in all sentient beings that conditions the future.


9.As a result of craving, attachment (upadana) arises, which takes form of sensuality, false views, attachment to rites and ceremonies, and belief in a permanent soul.


10.Attachment results in bhava, which literally means becoming (the drive for a life to come into being).


11.Dependent on becoming, birth (jati) takes place in a subsequent life. This is essentially the formation of the mind and matter (nama-rupa) combination.

12.The being so formed will be subject to change, undergo old age and eventually end in death (jara-marana).


Death is followed by re-becoming (rebirth) and the above process is repeated indefinitely until such time that we are able to develop the penetrating wisdom (sati panna) that dispel our lack of understanding* of the true nature of things, leading to the complete liberation from the cycle of existence (samsara) and attaining the state of Nibbana.


This cyclic process is often symbolically depicted as a wheel in Buddhist art - the Wheel of Law or the Wheel of Life (Dhammacakka). This appears in the famous pillars of Emperor Ashoka.

Source

 

Buddhism In Modern Society

Posted on July 18, 2011 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Appreciating Our Advantageous Circumstances

We are extraordinarily fortunate to have the circumstances for Dharma practice that are presently available to us. In both 1993 and 1994 I went to Mainland China on a pilgrimage and visited many temples there. Seeing the situation of Buddhism there made me appreciate the fortune we have here. However, we often take our freedom, material prosperity, spiritual masters and the Budda's teachings for granted and are blind to the wonderful opportunity that we have to practice. For example, we take for granted our ability to gather together to learn the Dharma. But this is not the case in many places. For example, when I was on a pilgrimage at Jiu Hua Shan, Kshitigarbha's Holy Mountain, the abbess of a nunnery asked me to give a talk to the pilgrims there. But my friends from Shanghai who were traveling with me said, "No, you can't do that. The police will come and all of us will get in trouble." We had to be careful about even an innocent activity like teaching the Dharma. Only when the abbess said that she was a friend of the police did my friends say it was safe for me to teach.


It is important that we reflect on the advantages and good circumstances that we have to practice right now. Otherwise, we will take them for granted and they will go to waste. We tend to select one or two small problems in our life, emphasize them, and blow them out of proportion. Then we think, "I can't be happy. I can't practice the Dharma," and this thought itself prevents us from enjoying our life and making it meaningful. We human beings are very funny: when something bad happens in our lives we say, "Why me? Why is this happening to me?" But when we wake up every morning and are alive and healthy and our family is well, we never say, "Why me? Why am I so fortunate?"


Not only should we open our eyes to all the things that are going right in our lives, but also we should recognize that they are results of our own previously-created positive actions or karma. It is helpful to think, "Whoever I was in a previous life, I did a lot of positive actions which make it possible for me to have so many good circumstances now. So in this life I should also act constructively by being ethical and kind so that in the future such fortune will continue."


Appreciating Our Problems

Appreciating our advantageous circumstances is important as is appreciating our problems. Why appreciate our problems? Because the difficult situations in our lives are the ones that make us grow the most. Take a minute and think about a difficult time in your life, a time when you had a lot of problems. Didn't you learn something valuable from that experience? You wouldn't be the person you are now without having gone through those difficulties. We may have gone through a painful time in our life, but we came out the other side with stronger inner resources and a better understanding of life. Seen in this way, even our problems enable us to become better people and aid us on the path to enlightenment.


Before we take refuge in the Three Jewels -- the Buddhas, the Dharma, and the Sangha -- it is helpful to visualize them in the space in front of us. That is, we imagine the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and arhats in a pure land. We are there too, surrounded by all sentient beings. A pure land is a place where all the circumstances are conducive to practicing the Dharma. When I visualized being in a Pure Land, I used to imagine only the people I liked and left out the people with whom I felt uncomfortable, threatened, insecure, or fearful. It was nice to imagine being in a place where everything was very pleasant and it was easy to practice the Dharma.


But one time when I was visualizing the pure land, all the people who were giving me problems were there too! I recognized that if a pure land is a place conducive for Dharma practice, then I also need the people who harm me to be there, because they help me to practice. In fact, sometimes those who harm us help us more to practice the Dharma than those who help us. The people who help us, give us gifts, and tell us how wonderful, talented, and intelligent we are often cause us to get puffed up. On the other hand, the people who harm us show us very clearly how much resentment and jealousy we have and how attached we are to our reputations. They help us to see our attachments and aversions and they point out the things we need to work on in ourselves. Sometimes they help us even more than our teachers do in this respect.


For example, our Dharma teachers tell us, "Try to forgive other people, try not to be angry. Jealousy and pride are defilements, so try not to follow them because they will cause you and others difficulties." We say, "Yes, yes, that's true. But I don't have those negative qualities. But the people who harm me are very resentful, jealous, and attached!" Even though our Dharma teachers point out our faults to us, we still don't see them. But when people with whom we don't get along point out our faults to us, we have to look at them. We can't run away anymore. When we're outrageously angry or burning with jealousy or attachment is eating away at us, we can't deny that we have these negative emotions. Of course, we try to say that it's the other person's fault, that we have these horrible emotions only because they made us have them. But after we've listened to the Buddha's teachings, this rationale doesn't work any more. We know in our hearts that our happiness and suffering come from our own mind. Then, even though we try to blame our difficulties on other people, we know we can't. We are forced to look at them ourselves. And when we do, we also see that they are incredible opportunities to grow and learn.


The bodhisattvas, who sincerely wish to practice the Dharma, want to have problems. They want people to criticize them. They want their reputation to get ruined. Why? They see problems as wonderful opportunities to practice. Atisha, a great bodhisattva in India, helped to spread Buddhism to Tibet in the 11th century. When he went to Tibet, he took his Indian cook with him. This cook was very disagreeable, speaking harshly and being rude and obnoxious to people. He even regularly insulted Atisha. The Tibetans asked, "Why did you bring this person with you? We can cook for you. You don't need him!" But Atisha said, "I do need him. I need him to practice patience."


So when someone criticizes me I think, "He is an incarnation of Atisha's cook." One time I was living in a Dharma center and had big problems with one person there, let's call him Sam. I was so happy when I left that place to go back to the monastery and see my spiritual master. My master knew of my difficulties and asked me, "Who is kinder to you: the Buddha, or Sam?" I immediately replied, "Of course the Buddha is kinder to me!" My teacher looked disappointed and proceeded to tell me that Sam was actually much kinder to me than the Buddha! Why? Because I couldn't possibly practice patience with the Buddha. I had to practice with Sam, and without practicing patience there was no way I could become a Buddha, so I actually needed Sam! Of course, that wasn't what I wanted my teacher to say! I wanted him to say, "Oh, I understand, Sam is a horrible person. He was so mean to you, you poor thing." I wanted sympathy, but my teacher didn't give it to me. This made me wake up and realize that difficult situations are beneficial because they force me to practice and find my inner strength. All of us are going to have problems in our lives. This is the nature of cyclic existence. Remembering this can help us to transform our problems into the path to enlightenment.


Dharma Practice in Modern Society

This is an important aspect of Buddhism in modern society. Dharma practice isn't just coming to the temple; it's not simply reading a Buddhist scripture or chanting the Buddha's name. Practice is how we live our lives, how we live with our family, how we work together with our colleagues, how we relate to the other people in the country and on the planet. We need to bring the Buddha's teachings on loving-kindness into our workplace, into our family, even into the grocery store and the gym. We do this not by handing out leaflets on a street corner, but by practicing and living the Dharma ourselves. When we do, automatically we will have a positive influence on the people around us. For example, you teach your children loving-kindness, forgiveness, and patience not only by telling them, but by showing it in your own behavior. If you tell your children one thing, but act in the opposite way, they are going to follow what we do, not what we say.


Teaching Children by Example

If we're not careful, it is easy to teach our children to hate and never to forgive when others harm them. Look at the situation in the former Yugoslavia: it is a good example of how, both in the family and in the schools, adults taught children to hate. When those children grew up, they taught their children to hate. Generation after generation, this went on, and look what happened. There is so much suffering there; it's very sad. Sometimes you may teach children to hate another part of the family. Maybe your grandparents quarreled with their brothers and sisters, and since then the different sides of the family didn't speak to each other. Something happened years before you were born -- you don't even know what the event was -- but because of it, you're not supposed to speak to certain relatives. Then you teach that to your children and grandchildren. They learn that the solution to quarreling with someone is never to speak to them again. Is that going to help them to be happy and kind people? You should think deeply about this and make sure you teach your children only what is valuable.


This is why it's so important that you exemplify in your behavior what you want your children to learn. When you find resentment, anger, grudges, or belligerence in your heart, you have to work on those, not only for your own inner peace but so you don't teach your children to have those harmful emotions. Because you love your children, try to also love yourself as well. Loving yourself and wanting yourself to be happy means you develop a kind heart for the benefit of everybody in the family.


Bringing Loving-Kindness to the Schools

We need to bring loving-kindness not only into the family but also into the schools. Before I became a nun, I was a schoolteacher, so I have especially strong feelings about this. The most important thing for children to learn is not a lot of information, but how to be kind human beings and how to resolve their conflicts with others in a constructive way. Parents and teachers put a lot of time and money into teaching children science, arithmetic, literature, geography, geology, and computers. But do we ever spend any time teaching them how to be kind? Do we have any courses in kindness? Do we teach kids how to work with their own negative emotions and how to resolve conflicts with others? I think this is much more important than the academic subjects. Why? Children may know a lot, but if they grow up to be unkind, resentful, or greedy adults, their lives will not be happy.


Parents want their children to have a good future and thus think their children need to make a lot of money. They teach their children academic and technical skills so that they can get a good job and make lots of money -- as if money were the cause of happiness. But when people are on their deathbed, you never hear anybody wishfully say, "I should have spent more time in the office. I should have made more money." When people have regrets about how they lived their life, usually they regret not communicating better with other people, not being kinder, not letting the people that they care about know that they care. If you want your kids to have a good future don't teach them just how to make money, but how to live a healthy life, how to be a happy person, how to contribute to society in a productive way.


Teaching Children to Share with Others

As parents you have to model this. Let's say your children come home and say, "Mom and Dad, I want designer jeans, I want new rollerblades, I want this and I want that because all the other kids have it." You say to your children, "Those things won't make you happy. You don't need them. It won't make you happy to keep up with the Lee's." But then you go out and buy all the things that everybody else has, even though your house is already filled with things you don't use. In this case, what you are saying and what you are doing are contradictory. You tell your children to share with other children, you don't give things to charities for the poor and needy. Look at the homes in this country: they are filled with things we don't use but can't give away. Why not? We're afraid that if we give something away we might need it in the future. We find it difficult to share our things, but we teach children that they should share. A simple way to teach your children generosity is to give away all the things you haven't used in the last year. If all four seasons have gone by and we haven't used something, we probably won't use it the next year either. There are many people who are poor and can use those things, and it would help ourselves, our children, and the other people if we gave those things away.


Another way to teach your children kindness is to not buy everything that you want. Instead, save the money and give it to a charity or to somebody who is in need. You can show your children through your own example that accumulating more and more material things doesn't bring happiness, and that it's more important to share with others.


Teaching Children About the Environment and Recycling

Along this line, we need to teach children about the environment and recycling. Taking care of the environment that we share with other living beings is part of the practice of loving kindness. If we destroy the environment, we harm others. For example, if we use a lot of disposable things and don't recycle them but just throw them away, what are we giving to future generations? They will inherit from us bigger garbage dumps. I'm very happy to see more people reusing and recycling things. It is an important part of our Buddhist practice and an activity that temples and Dharma centers should take the lead in.


The Buddha did not comment directly on many things in our modern society -- such as recycling -- because those things didn't exist at his time. But he talked about principles that we can apply to our present situations. These principles can guide us in deciding how to act in many new situations that didn't exist 2,500 years ago.


New Addictions in the Modern Society

However, the Buddha did talk directly about intoxicants and discouraged us from using them. At the time of the Buddha, the chief intoxicant was alcohol. However, extrapolating on the principle he set down, the advice against intoxicants also refers to using recreational drugs or misusing tranquilizers. If we take this a step further, we have to observe our relationship to the biggest intoxicant in our society: television. As a society, we are addicted to TV. For example, after getting home from work, we're tired and want to relax. What do we do? We sit down, turn on the TV, and space out for hours, until we finally fall asleep in front of it. Our precious human life, with its potential to become a fully enlightened Buddha, gets wasted in front of the TV! Sometimes certain TV programs are far worse intoxicants than alcohol and drugs, for example, programs with a lot of violence. By the time a child is 15-years-old, he or she has seen thousands of people die on the television. We're intoxicating our children with a violent view of life. Parents need to select the TV programs they watch with a lot of care, and in that way be an example to their children.


Another big intoxicant is shopping. You may be surprised to hear this, but some psychologists are now researching addiction to shopping. When some people feel depressed, they drink or use drugs. Other people go to the shopping center and buy something. It's the same mechanism: we avoid looking at our problems and deal with our uncomfortable emotions by external means. Some people are compulsive shoppers. Even when they don't need anything, they go to the mall and just look around. Then buy something, but return home still feeling empty inside.


We also intoxicate ourselves by eating too much or eating too little. In other words, we handle our uncomfortable emotions by using food. I often joke that in America the Three Jewels of Refuge are the TV, the shopping center, and the refrigerator! That's where we turn when we need help! But these objects of refuge don't bring us happiness and in fact make us more confused. If we can turn our mind to the Buddhas, the Dharma, and the Sangha, we'll be a lot happier in the long-run. Even in this moment, our spiritual practice can help us. For example, when we are tired or stressed out, we can relax our mind by chanting the Buddha's name or by bowing to the Buddha. While doing this, we imagine the Buddha in front of us and think that much radiant and peaceful light streams from the Buddha into us. This light fills our entire body-mind and makes us very relaxed and at ease. After doing this for a few minutes, we feel refreshed. This is much cheaper and easier than taking refuge in the TV, shopping mall, and refrigerator. Try it!!


by Venerable Thubten Chodron Extracted from the Book" The Path to Happiness"

The Defenation of "Vassa"

Posted on July 7, 2011 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)


Vassa is a three-month annual retreat observed by Theravada monks and nuns. It begins on the day after the full moon day of the eighth lunar month of the common Buddhist calendar, which usually falls in July. The retreat ends on the 15th day of the waxing moon of the eleventh lunar month, usually in October.


During Vassa, monks and nuns remain inside monasteries and temple grounds, devoting their time to intensive meditation and study. Laypeople support the monastic sangha by bringing food, candles and other offerings to temples.


Laypeople also often observe Vassa by giving up something, such as smoking or eating meat. For this reason, westerners sometimes call Vassa the "Buddhist Lent."


The tradition of Vassa began during the life of the Buddha. Most of the time, the first Buddhist monks who followed the Buddha did not stay in one place, but walked from village to village to teach. They begged for their food and often slept outdoors, sheltered only by trees.


But during India’s summer rainy season living as homeless ascetics became difficult. So, groups of monks would find a place to stay together until the rain stopped, forming a temporary community. Wealthy laypeople sometimes sheltered monks on their estates. Eventually a few of these patrons built permanent houses for monks, which amounted to an early form of monastery.


[Source: buddhism.about.com  by Barbara O'Brien]

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